At the tender age of 9, Serkalem's family's poverty sent her into the labour force. Since her father's weaving and her mother's pottery could not make ends meet, Serkalem began assisting both her parents with their work, before heading out to work for other local weavers as well. For her long hours and multiple jobs, she received a wage of about $1.50 each week. Six years later, at the age of 15, Serkalem has only been able to complete up to 5th grade in school, and her work has left her with chronic pain.*
This story is just one of an estimated 150 million child labourers. If you read Serkalem's whole story on the No Child for Sale website, you'll be happy to hear it ends well. With support from World Vision, Serkalem has had the opportunity to spend a lot more time on her studies. But for millions of children all over the world, this isn't the case.
If you still need to be convinced that purchasing your consumer goods from socially responsible companies is the way to go, just type "Child labour stories" into your Google bar. Spend fifteen minutes wading through the results. And then ask yourself, would I want this for my child? Go ahead do that right now. If your answer is "no," come back and keep reading.
Good. I'm glad we agree. It might not happen to your child, but it is happening to someone's. And that's not right. So, together, let's make it unnecessary by choosing to purchase products made in a fair and safe environment, by people of legal working age.
Today marks Part 5 of my 7 part series, looking at the supply chain policies of companies represented at my local mall. To read parts 1 through 4, click here. We'll start with the "O"s.
Old Navy is owned by Gap Inc., whose policies I reviewed in Part 3. If you want to know their policies, and why I put it in the yellow category, click here.
Payless Shoe Source
Payless Shoe Source is known for being a place to buy cheap shoes. Generally speaking, if a store is known for being cheap, it's probably not paying the manufacturers very much. I can't confirm if this is true about Payless or not, because their website offers no information at all.
Like most jewellery stores in Coquitlam Centre, People's Jewellers sells some Canadian diamonds, and they follow the Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct. This means those diamonds cane be traced from the mine, and can be bought with the knowledge that they were fairly mined. However, People's Jewellers website has no information on the other metals used in their jewellery.
Plenty is a Vancouver based boutique store with international and in-house brands. Unfortunately for us, their website has no information on the supply chain for any of these brands.
Privilege is another small boutique store in Coquitlam Centre. Once again, it's website has no information on the production of the clothing they carry.
For those of you with a sweet tooth (like myself), you'll be happy to hear that Purdy's Chocolates is committed to sustainable cocoa farming. They are a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, which helps cocoa farmers and their families through programs that "raise farmers incomes, encourage responsible, sustainable cocoa farming and strengthen communities." They are also part of an organization called Winrock International, which has implemented a child labour prevention program in cocoa-growing communities in Cote d'Ivoire, whose main export is cocoa beans. The innovative program keeps children out of the cocoa farms by providing financial support for vocational training, summer camps, scholarships and microloans.
Reitman's website boasts a robust Code of Conduct for all it's suppliers. This code includes, but is not limited to, rules against the use of children younger than 15, or the age for completing compulsory educations, against the use of any type of forced labour, and against discriminatory hiring policies. On top of this, the Code has a long and exhaustive list of safety conditions that must be met. Their code of conduct also states that all factories must give authorized representatives unhindered access to all relevant records, whether or not they have been notified in advance. Reitman's also reserves the right to terminate its relationship with any suppliers that violate their code.
Ricki's is owned by the same company as Bootlegger and Cleo, and none of their websites have any information on their supply chain.
Ronson's Rack is a branch of Ronson's, which is a Canadian owned and operated show company. All shoes are designed, manufactured, and sold in Canada.
Once again, it would be best to talk to someone who has more knowledge of cosmetics and how they're made. But, I assume someone has to harvest the plants that are used in the majority of cosmetics, and Rose Cosmetic's website has no information about who does this, where it's done, or how it's done.
I was relieved to find that RW&Co has pretty quality policies, as it's the only place I can find shirts that fit my husband. RW&Co. is owned by Reitman's Canada. If you've been reading thoroughly, you'll know why that's a good thing!
Children like Serkalem should be spending their time playing outside, learning their multiplication tables and reading fantasy books, not working 14 or more hour days in horrible conditions for little pay. We can be a part of making the need for child labour obsolete by refusing to support companies that use kids in their production line, and by supporting companies that refuse to use child labour.
* Story from World Vision's "No Child for Sale" Campaign. Find it here: http://nochildforsale.ca/casestudy/weaving-a-childhood-away/